As part of the ‘food museum‘ craze sweeping across China, Beijing has unveiled a museum dedicated entirely to roast duck!
Located at a downtown branch of Quanjude, one of the city’s most famous roast duck restaurants, the museum opened its doors this week to the public. The opening was timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Quanjude’s founding. Though foodies might not tout Quanjude for its quality, there’s no doubt that when it comes to quantity, the restaurant knows its business. Since its founding in 1864, it’s expanded with about 100 branches worldwide, including locations from Rangoon to Melbourne.
The exhibition contains more than 500 items, Quanjude says, such as a coupon from a duck sale dating back to 1901, advertisements for the restaurant from the Republic of China era and various photos of former Chinese leaders consuming roast duck including Mao Zedong and former prime minister Zhou Enlai, who ate Quanjude duck alongside U.S. president Richard Nixon at the Great Hall of the People during Mr. Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.
If the place has a promotional feel, perhaps it’s no surprise. Quanjude is among the most widely touted of China’s “time honored brands” — an official designation granted to certain commercial establishments that managed to survive the ravages of the Mao years — and is sold by Beijing tourist authorities as the flagship producer of the city’s most famous dish.
….Even if Beijing roast duck didn’t technically originate in Beijing. World of Chinese fills us in:
The name of this dish belies the truth of its origins, shrouded in mystery and legend though they are. ‘Nanjing Duck’ would be actually be a more accurate name, for that was where the dish was invented before being brought northward by migrant workers who helped construct the Forbidden City six or so centuries ago.
But the recipe they brought required stewed duck rather than the much loved roast duck of today. The descendents of these migrants would settle into lives as chefs to the emperors, and politics helped make the dish what it is today
When the chefs found themselves out of their jobs in the 19th century and were forced into working for actual restaurants in the city, they found that, rather than stewing the birds, roasting the birds (a favored cooking technique of royalty) had the effect of making them more succulent and delicious. The rest is history.
Whatever the case, the museum is definitely going to help drive business to Quanjude. C’mon, thousands of museum-goers getting ‘Beijing duck blueballs’ from from looking at gorgeous displays of birds they can’t eat? Yeah, they’re going need a kaoya fix after that.